Tuesday 6 March 2012

Some Walter Bagehot quotations


  • A friend told me yesterday that my friend Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote books about Bagehot and felt I had been entertaining angels unawares. How wonderful to be paid to read and write about Bagehot (and how I feel I have wasted my life by not being a historian or writer). This led me to find some quotations. Do read his essays. He is as good a prose writer as Macaulay or Newman:

    The reason that there are so few good books written is that so few people who write know anything.

    Can an undying creature debit petty expenses and charge for carriage paid? The soul ties its shoes; the mind washes its hands in a basin. All is incongruous.

    The trouble with mysticism is that it is true.

    A constitutional statesman is in general a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities.

    A family on the throne is an interesting idea. It brings down the pride of sovereignty to the level of petty life.

    A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

    A man's mother is his misfortune, but his wife is his fault.

    A severe though not unfriendly critic of our institutions said that the cure for admiring the House of Lords was to go and look at it.

    All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality - the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.

    An influential member of parliament has not only to pay much money to become such, and to give time and labour, he has also to sacrifice his mind too - at least all the characteristics part of it that which is original and most his own.

    Conquest is the missionary of valor, and the hard impact of military virtues beats meanness out of the world.

    Dullness in matters of government is a good sign, and not a bad one - in particular, dullness in parliamentary government is a test of its excellence, an indication of its success.

    Honor sinks where commerce long prevails.

    In every particular state of the world, those nations which are strongest tend to prevail over the others; and in certain marked peculiarities the strongest tend to be the best.

    It is good to be without vices, but it is not good to be without temptations.

    Men who do not make advances to women are apt to become victims to women who make advances to them.

    No great work has ever been produced except after a long interval of still and musing meditation.

    No real English gentleman, in his secret soul, was ever sorry for the death of a political economist.

    Nothing is more unpleasant than a virtuous person with a mean mind.

    One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.

    Poverty is an anomaly to rich people; it is very difficult to make out why people who want dinner do not ring the bell.

    The best history is but like the art of Rembrandt; it casts a vivid light on certain selected causes, on those which were best and greatest; it leaves all the rest in shadow and unseen.

    The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.

    The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it.

    The greatest mistake is trying to be more agreeable than you can be.

    The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

    The habit of common and continuous speech is a symptom of mental deficiency. It proceeds from not knowing what is going on in other people's minds.

    The real essence of work is concentrated energy.

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